Colleges & COVID: An Interview With Judson President Gene Crume

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What do you do when a global pandemic hits and you’re the president of a college or university?

On this episode of The Roys Report, Judson University President Gene Crume joins Julie to discuss how his university responded to the coronavirus crisis. They also explore the controversial decision at Liberty University to keep its campus open. And Julie & Gene talk about whether Christian colleges and K-12 schools will be able to survive financially in the wake of the pandemic.

This Weeks Guests

Gene Crume

Dr. Gene C. Crume, Jr. was named Judson University’s sixth president in February, 2013. Before coming to Judson, Dr. Crume served as an independent consultant working with institutions such as Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota and the Peru State College Foundation (Nebraska) on issues related to external relations (marketing, communications, fundraising) and strategic planning. Dr. Crume spent a significant portion of his career at his alma mater, Western Kentucky University (WKU), where he served as the Executive Director of the WKU Alumni Association and taught as an adjunct instructor. His career also includes serving as Executive Vice President and Assistant Professor at Midland Lutheran College (now Midland University) and President of the Indiana State University Foundation.

Show Transcript

Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.

JULIE ROYS:  What do you do when a global pandemic hits and you’re the president of a college or university? Welcome to The Roys Report—a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And today I’m coming to you from my home where we’re all sheltering in place. So, you may hear a bit of a difference in sound quality, but like many of you we’re trying to make the best of a difficult situation. And I do hope and pray that you’re doing well and staying safe right now. Well, joining me today is Dr. Gene Crume, President of Judson University. And Gene, like thousands of college presidents around the country, has been trying to deal with the coronavirus pandemic while also educating students, protecting their safety, and keeping a college afloat. And as you can imagine, it’s been an extremely intense ride. So, I’m very grateful that he’s taken the time to join me today and I’m looking forward to hearing about what that’s been like at Judson during this crisis. We’re also going to discuss the debacle at Liberty University. As many of you have heard, that’s where University President, Jerry Falwell Jr., decided to keep the school open. And now one student has tested positive for COVID-19. Another is awaiting results and eight students are in self-isolation. So, kind of a crazy situation there, a very controversial situation. And we’ll be getting to that a little bit too. But before we dive into our discussion, I want to take a minute to thank our sponsors. Of course, one of them is Judson University. And just a reminder that Judson’s next World Leaders Forum is October 20th, at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center. And the speaker will be General David Petraeus—a four star general and former director of the CIA. That’s a ways off but you’ll want to mark your calendars now. Also, I want to encourage you right now to support your local businesses. They need our help. They really do and if you plan and if you happen to be looking for a car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. At Marquardt, you can do your shopping online at BuyACar123.com. And if you want to test drive a car, Marquardt will drop the car off at your home for an extended test drive. Plus, right now Marquardt is offering 0% financing for 84 months. So again, just go to BuyACar123.com. 

Well again, joining me today is Dr. Gene Crume, President of Judson University in Elgin, Illinois. He’s also a friend, and a great supporter of The Roys Report. So, Gene, welcome. It’s a pleasure to have you join me. 

DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  Thank you, Julie, for the opportunity. Look forward to chatting with you. 

JULIE ROYS:  So, I would just like to hear the story of how things unfolded at Judson. When did you first find out that this is going to be something where you’re probably going to have to move classes online and close the school for all intents and purposes? When did you find out about that and how did the decision-making process go?

DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  Well, we’ve, you know, like everyone else, we’ve been following the story of COVID-19 from its beginning, and tracking the impact as it was starting to hit the country. And, you know, we had talked about that. One of the preparedness scenarios you go through when you do tabletop exercises in higher education is pandemics and specifically the flu. What happens if a flu outbreak hits? I know school superintendents go through that. School principals go through that. My dad was a school principal years ago. And, you know, flu would disrupt the school year at that time for only a week maybe or several days. But it’s not an unusual exercise to talk about how you respond to a pandemic. What is unusual now is the length of time and the uncertainty as we go forward. So, at Judson, with our senior leadership, what we talked about at length was if the time came that we needed to shift to a digital learning space, we knew two things. Number one—that the decision was going to happen very rapidly, meaning within a matter of hours, not necessarily days that we had days to think about it. And number two was once we made our decision, we are going to stick with our decision. And so, our decision was to go to a digital learning format. We’ve been very blessed because God prepared our institution 25 years ago, by having an adult program. And so we’ve been delivering learning through a digital platform now for, you know, well over a decade. But it’s always a challenge when you have traditional students who live on campus in a residential environment. And how do you respond to them? And how do you have a conversation in regard to our decision will be to move as many people off campus as we can—move to a digital learning platform and encourage the residential students to shelter in place with their families, because that is the best place for them to be. So that was sort of our thought process. And what really helped me was chatting with some presidential colleagues at other Christian universities as well too—Kurt Dykstra and particularly at Trinity Christian. You know, we just kind of have a nice fabric and network there to talk about what this looks like. And obviously on March 13, we made a very different decision than maybe Liberty and some other schools did. And that was—we were going to respond immediately, move to digital learning format, and protect the public health and safety of our faculty, staff and students.

JULIE ROYS:  Yeah, so it was a different decision than Liberty made and that one has been such a really a lightning rod in just the headlines. Everybody’s talking about this and a lot of criticism now, especially now that someone’s tested positive for COVID. And I do know there are some extenuating circumstances. And for example, Liberty, I know, has a number of international students who they say didn’t have a place to go. Although my understanding is 1,800 students returned to that campus after spring break. 800 of them have already left at least. So clearly 800 of them didn’t have to be there. Don’t know how many are international students. I actually reached out to them, but I haven’t heard back—not a big surprise. I’m sure they’re hearing from a lot of people. But what do you make of that decision in—and that’s on the east coast where it was even, at that point, more prevalent? COVID was more prevalent than it is here, I think, at the time. What do you think of this decision to keep the college open, especially with a school like Liberty that can do online classes so well.? I mean, they have over 100,000 online.

DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.: They do. I think there’s a couple of interesting perspectives in which we can examine the case at Liberty. Number one is just a basic leadership lesson. You know, one of the things that I try to teach from a leadership perspective is—it is very difficult to walk in the shoes of another leadership team, and to look at the decisions that they have to engage in at the moment in time they have to engage in them. It is much easier to sit outside of that and look into it and observe, criticize, even at sometimes, applaud, which could be inappropriate, the decisions that people are making. Because we don’t have all the facts, we don’t have all the details. I think it’s one of the reasons Julie, it makes your work particularly hard—is that, as a Christian journalist, you know, you’re like a marketer and a high school coach. You get second guessed all the time on what you’re doing because your job is to look outside-in. And a lot of people respond to you—well, you just don’t know all the facts and details. Which is true. We don’t know them all. But we do know some things that are pretty clear and that is Liberty’s schedule was different than Judson’s. We’re blessed that we start early in the year. And that means our spring break was that first week of March. And we were blessed to get three mission trips in the first week of March to Belize, the Dominican Republic, and to Scotland. All three trips came back—no health concerns with any of the people on the trip. Those were three low priority areas at the time that they went. So, we were fortunate because we had Spring Break early. They had a different Spring Break schedule. They start their school year differently. So that’s point number two—context is everything in these situations. Because of when your school year runs, when it operates, what your student body makeup is, and what that looks like. We still have, at Judson about 36 students on campus. Most of our students on campus are either international students, which makes up the majority of that group, or they are graduating students that have—this is their transition plan. I mean, it’s not going to be fair to them to send them far away, in a couple of cases, only to come back here and look for a job. They’re working through finishing their internships from where they are. And we have a couple cases, too, with a couple of our students that staying on campus with their room and board and their meal plan. Because of their economic environment, that is the best option for them. They’re safer, they have three meals a day, they’re in a nice secure location, and that is—it doesn’t place them back in a vulnerable position. So, every school has context. That’s number two to go through. And then number three, you know, with President Falwell and Liberty, it just—he is who he is as a person. And some people will appreciate that if you’re in his orbit. And for a lot of people, on the outside looking in, you know, he’s going to make the decisions that he’s going to make. And he’s taken a brazen approach to those. And when you teach crisis leadership, sometimes at moments like this, it really exposes you to be second guessed, and it exposes you from a liability standpoint. So, I’m sure they’re wrestling with all that at Liberty. I just know our context, at Judson, was much different, as were many of the schools here in the Chicagoland area.

JULIE ROYS:  So different in that you got your Spring Break done earlier. You also were further along in your semester, but not different in the sense that you’ve got students living in dormitory housing and trying to feed them in cafeterias. And I mean, I’m looking at that, and I know I’ve heard from some healthcare professionals, had Lina AbuJamra on, who I know—Dr. Lina, is somebody that you know well—last week. And she was just like, “Communal living is a nightmare when you’re dealing with a virus. I mean, not advisable.” I know professors at Liberty who told me, and sent me texts, that they had received. saying, “Hey listen, we want you reporting to work, doing your classes online from your office as opposed to at home.” I know some people who wrote back and said, “I’m not doing that.” And some of them had health situations that are outstanding. But why? I mean, I just don’t understand the logic of it. I mean, some of this seems ill advised. And I know you’re probably loath to criticize another college president but it seems a little bit nuts to me. I mean, sitting from my standpoint. Again, I’m looking from the outside-in. But I’m thinking, hmm, that was quite a stand to take that you may really regret and does it expose the college to liability?

DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  You know, obviously at Judson, we made a very different decision. So, I think, my best response is our decision was probably the polar opposite of theirs. And that probably reflects our thinking as juxtaposed to what they were thinking at Liberty. With that being shared, I will tell you, Julie, the day we announced that we were going to encourage our students to move home, within two hours, I had a phone call from a parent who asked me immediately about refunds. And I used the terms crisis and global pandemic, both of those terms were challenged by this individual, because, “the government hadn’t declared anything” even though here in Illinois, Governor Pritzker had already declared an emergency situation. So, you know, we had a different legal authority where the governor had already clearly stated that this was going to be a concern. And so, you know, either way, you’re in a tough spot, because I mean, my wife’s sending out, the night of the decision, before we announced it the next day. I’m on the phone. We’re talking with our team. And I’m looking at my wife, Cindy, and I said that we’re going to make the decision to go digital—get people off campus. And her response was, “What if this is a wrong decision?” And I said, “Well, here’s what one of my presidential colleagues said, do you want to be that one school that delays this decision?” And I think that’s the case with Liberty. They’re the one school that delayed the decision. And there are circumstances and consequences that come with that. And they will now have to walk down that path given those circumstances. We made a different decision. And I think, for our community, that has worked out very well. And we think we really, really minimized the exposure to our faculty, staff and students with the decision we made. So, unless you’re sitting in there in the room and unless you know Mr. Falwell as a leader, the best I can do is sit here and just sort of speculate on what they were thinking. But given what our decision was, we pretty much had a different plan than they did.

JULIE ROYS:  But I’m guessing you didn’t call any parents “dummy” on Twitter for their (laughter).

DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  I teach a very different communication style in my marketing and public relations class and I don’t advocate confrontation with your clients.

JULIE ROYS:  Yeah, yeah. That seems a little ill advised. I was a little shocked by that. Any of you listening—there’s a story up on my website about that. So, you can check it out at JulieRoys.com. But you mentioned Governor Pritzker and your situation when you’re deciding to close the school. But we also had, here in Illinois, elections at about the same time. And you’re a polling place and that put you in a very interesting situation, too. Because Governor Pritzker said we’re going ahead with elections. So, tell me what that was like in interfacing with the government on an issue like this?

DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  Yeah. And let me let me start that response by saying this. I really believe one of the unsung heroes, in the decision in Illinois, were the polling workers. Wow. In our conversation with the director of elections for Kane County, what he had to go through and the exposure that the state put the polling workers—exposure that they put them—that position they put them in. That was very challenging and the fact that they did run the election and it went as relatively smoothly as it did. You know, they deserve a lot more credit than we’ve given them. And I don’t think people spend enough time thanking them and lifting them up because they were in a very vulnerable position. That was our conundrum. We did not want to be a polling place. We had already made the decision that we move most of our folks off campus. The prospect of bringing in over 1000 individuals, outside of campus, onto campus, into one of our facilities went against everything we had been told—everything we had been told. And so, it was an inconsistency that troubled us a great deal. So, we shut down the entire campus. We locked every building and we only made available that particular polling location. The Kane County officials had been gracious. They’ve offered to come in and clean the building, which we appreciate. That still hasn’t been done and we understand the bumps with that. But, you know, that’s been several weeks now and we still have a building that hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned because of the promise of coming in and doing that. And to me, that’s on the state decision by moving forward with the elections. But other states made a similar decision so we can sit and criticize Liberty for the decision they made. And yet we sit at a paradoxical spot here in Illinois when it seems like we made a similar decision for political purposes and politics. Voting is politics. It is a community service but it was disconcerting to us to say the least. I do appreciate our county election workers—the grace they provided us—but we were basically told we’ll pursue legal action if you don’t keep your polling place open. So, you know, we felt like we were backed into a corner. I think we managed it about as well as we could have. But, you know Julie, even Scriptures are clear about this as well too in regard to the things of politics and the things of man versus the things of God. And it’s going to reshape how we look at our community service outreach. God willing, we will host Love Elgin Day, which is a very large, comprehensive community outreach effort that has a Heal Elgin Day and free dentistry and free clothing and the food bank. And God willing, we will be the host site of that in November. That we find as our Christian witness. That’s serving the underserved. Being a polling location, we’re gonna have to really reassess that. I don’t know that that’s necessarily Scripturally directed from our perspective. Now, it is a nice public service, but it’s not necessarily connected to our Christian witness.

JULIE ROYS:  It’s interesting with elections. We’ll never know how that impacted the spread of the disease. I mean, because with something like that, it’s unlike a church that has a meeting and or choir practice. If you read that story, it was that one state where a choir came together and 45 of them now are, I mean, 45 are tested positive with COVID.  Two are dead. And I know that’s changing all the time. But with I mean elections, people from all over come in and there’s no necessarily connection. So, we’ll never know. And I just hope and pray it didn’t make it a lot worse, but we don’t know. You know, one of the things I am concerned about and I know this concerns you is the online learning platform. And it sounds like Judson was pretty well prepared for this to go online. I know my husband’s a teacher. They’ve gone online. So that was kind of new for his school because it’s a high school and high schools don’t generally teach online unless you’re a homeschooling platform or something. But there are people saying this is going to set back education. I know you’re committed to finishing out the spring semester, but there was a Washington Post commentary by Kevin Hoffman, who’s the former head of education in Tennessee. He writes, “Years of research shows that online schooling is ineffective and that students suffer significantly learning losses when they have a long break from school. Now they’re getting both in a hastily arranged mess. And kids who suffer most from the summer slide are the low-income students, the ones already struggling to keep up.” So, let’s talk about this. I mean, I have homeschool friends who are just like, “yeah, we’ve been doing this forever. This is no different for us.” You know, we’re kind of glad the rest of the world is getting a taste of this. When you’re used to it, when you’re prepared, you can do online. But a lot of places aren’t and how is this gonna set back education?

DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  Well, I don’t think it’s going to set back education. I read that same article. I would be comfortable challenging his knowledge of the data about learning environments and how well students learn in different environments and whether or not there’s a setback or not. I would offer two pieces of data that have been pretty consistent over the last 30 years. Number one, the quality of the educational experience is directly connected to the quality of the teacher in the classroom, whether it be homeschooled, or whether it be in a public-school environment or private-school environment. The quality of the instruction, the quality of the teacher absolutely shapes the quality of the learning environment for the student. That’s where students perform. We’ve seen lots of studies on class size. We’ve seen lots of studies on blended models of having technology enhanced learning and making it all in-person learning. And the data goes both ways on a lot of those. The second piece of data that people don’t talk a lot about is that for the past 20 years, the data seems pretty consistent now, that when a student enters their freshman year high school, by the time they graduate from high school, and even if they go on to college—if you’re a B student as a freshman in high school, you will probably graduate college as a B student. So, there’s very little academic performance above the level you enter that your educational experience. So, B students in high school tend to be B students in college. A students tend to be A students and C students tend to be C students. The only thing that does change, that dramatically, is overcoming trauma, or coming out of different socio-economic environments. But mostly students stay pretty consistent with their academic performance from their freshman year high school. So, learning online or digital learning in person, doesn’t really seem to affect that as much. So, I think, with all respect to homeschooling parents, they’ve got a really good point of saying, “Yeah, we’ve been using blended models for a long time and it’s pretty effective.” Now the challenge is, a good number of teachers in the K—12 environment, and with traditional, residential colleges and universities—a good number of those teachers only use technology to augment the learning experience. And it’s still very much in-person as a foundation. So those professors learning to adapt to an all-digital environment is a bit of a challenge. There’s a famous saying that the teacher arrives when the student is ready. And that’s true in the classroom. And that’s true on the digital format. So, I have to be more diligent with my class in staying connected with my students right now to make sure that they are staying on top of their coursework. Because I will not see them two days a week right now. And so, there’s a little bit more diligence. But I’ve got a lot more resources now than relying on waiting for them to walk into classroom D at Judson University Lindner Tower. I could email them. I can’t tell you, Julie, how much texting I’ve been doing with my students and or replying to them via social media. It feels like, at times, the most difficult way to get in touch with my students is send them an email. And the easiest way is to send them a Facebook message and I’ll get a response back. So those are adaptive pedagogical structures that we can work with to help encourage them to be engaged, check in on them, find out what’s going on. The other thing we do know is that there are some students that will gravitate towards learning in-person as a more preferred learning structure. That doesn’t mean that they can’t adapt to the digital means. I think we’re seeing that, with schools switching to pass-fail as their grading system for this semester, there’s nominal data, if any really at all, that says pass-fail structures right now will actually benefit the students. I understand the anxiety and the trauma and reducing stress. And those are all very good, valid points. But when you’re a faith-based institution like Judson, it seems like God has created us for moments like this to walk alongside of our students to help provide support and comfort and a sense of, you know, peace and grace to them. And to let them know that, “Hey, God’s walking alongside side of you. We’ll get this figured out. Take a deep breath. And let’s talk about what you can get accomplished between now and the end of the semester.” So yeah, that wasn’t one of my favorite opinion pieces. But you know, he’s entitled to his opinion. And I don’t know that I would hold that that is entirely accurate.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, we’re living this, in our household, because we have a 17-year-old senior who’s just finishing up school. And she’s kind of, I mean, she’s bummed that there’s not going to be a prom this year. She’s never gone to prom and she was kind of hoping to do that. But she’s loving, actually, the freedom of the online and she’s doing quite well. I think she’s almost doing better now than when she was at school. Because maybe the social environment is so distracting that it’s a little more difficult to study and to keep your head there. My husband is an AP Statistics teacher. They just found out, not too long ago, that the test, the AP Stats test, isn’t going to have the last two chapters on it. So, there was great celebration in our home because not only is he a teacher of that, but my daughter is in his class. So, she was very excited to hear that. But it does make me wonder. I mean, here’s—my daughter is not going to probably be going into a mathematical field, knowing her. But I thought, you know, my son, who by the way, was a B student in high school and became an A student in college. So, there is hope parents. But he was going into an engineering field. Stats would have been probably important for him to have those last two chapters. I mean, what about some of these students who test out? I mean, I’m just thinking they’re testing out of a college course. But they didn’t really fully complete it. And is that going to be a problem?

DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  Well, it will be in certain academic disciplines. And that’s what we’re looking at on a course-by-course in an academic program, academic program basis. There is a big difference between general education courses, which are designed to broaden your overall knowledge base and to help you learn how to think critically. And certainly, at a liberal arts school, like Judson, that’s a big part of it. It’s to help you learn how to think critically about issues, problems, information that you’re receiving, data that you get. In certain academic programmatic areas, it will make a difference. And, for example, we have a nationally recognized architecture program. And there’s just no shortening those classes. I mean, it is important that they complete the majority of their academic requirements in the term. Nursing courses are much the same way as well, too. And so, you know, there are certain academic programs where that requirement is going to have just a different level of stringent expectation than other academic areas. Now, that doesn’t mean in those other academic areas, they’re easier. It just means that there’s a different educational structure and expectation with that. Because what we often see, is that if you’re gifted in mathematics, mathematics is going to feel a little easier for you. If you’re gifted in the humanities, and if you’re gifted in public speaking, those are going to feel easier to you as well. And so, it depends on the course. It depends on the structure, the instructor. And it just depends on what did your syllabus say and what were you trying to convey, throughout the full course of the semester, that they needed to learn. And it’s really a course-by-course basis more than anything else.

JULIE ROYS:  So, let’s look at finances because I know this is the big issue right now, right? We’ve got a disease that we’re trying to stay alive, as a society, but financially, some are asking is the cure worse than the disease? Because financially, so many businesses are going to go under. And it is a crisis economically. And I know for small Christian schools, you guys have been tightening your belts already. And now this hits. What is going to be the financial impact in our small Christian Schools, not just colleges and universities, but also K-12. Are they going to weather this? 

DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  It’s going to be challenging. That’s the short version of it. And in that regard, we’re no different than small business owners. We’re no different than people that own their own hairstyling salons or restaurants, or they own a local store. It’s going to be hard for everyone. Because the economics of this just don’t add up. You know when you take people out of the marketplace, it can only have a negative consequence to it. So there will be lots of businesses that will unfortunately not make it during this challenging time, economically. And I think there’s a fair question to be asked about stay at home orders and the scope of those orders, and the types of businesses that are required to shut down. But that also needs to be blended with—we’ve seen so many examples of crowds gathering that people tend to do foolish things in large groups. So, it is a complex formula for Christian schools, K-12, as well as higher education. We’re already starting to see some of the effects of that. You know MacMurray here in Illinois, as an institution announced this week that they will most likely be closing at the end of this term. So, they can’t meet the ongoing concern clause. And so, they’ve already agreed to teach, arrangements with some other schools downstate. And a small Catholic institution, not small compared to us, but a Catholic institution in California already announced that they were closing as well, too. And so that’s before the CARES ACT relief package from the federal government was finalized. And these schools have already announced that they don’t feel like they can continue. So yes, it’s going to be a real felt effect in terms of the economics of it. In some ways at Judson, we’ve been working through the tough economics of this state because Illinois suffers from three challenges when it comes to enrollment at colleges, universities. Number one, is the fact that more people have been moving out of state than moving in. Number two has been there’s just fewer 18-year-olds being born and that birth trend will continue to decline now pretty rapidly between now and 2035 and 2040. And then the third part is in the year 2000, roughly between 15 to 20% of the 18-year-olds going to college went out of state. Last year that was 50%. Those are three big market losses that Illinois has already been languishing under for the last six years. So, we’ve been tightening our belt at Judson for the last five or six years. And in many ways, Julie, that was God’s provision to us for this moment right now. I can’t imagine how much harder this would be for us had we not already made some operational budget decisions to tighten our economic belt last August, September, October, November, December and January. This would be a lot harder for us had we not, and our team had done a great job of just cutting our operational expenses. So, it’s going to have a felt impact. The CARES ACT—what they did on the federal level will help. That will certainly help us provide economic relief to our residential students who we will find some way to help refund a portion of their housing and of their meal plan. So that will be very helpful to them from an economic standpoint. That federal CARES ACT will help us provide those funds to do that. But the underlying business conditions are going to be tough, but we are blessed to be on stable ground. A lot of schools aren’t. And a lot of K-12, Christian higher education institutions aren’t because the birth rate has just declined and there’s fewer students interested in that type of educational environment.

JULIE ROYS:  But I think an encouragement to people who obviously are being stretched right now, economically—everyone is. But to remember those institutions, the nonprofits, that you believe in, they need your donations now probably more than at any other time. And they’re the hardest to give. So, it’s going to require more sacrifice. But just a reminder to us that if you love what the mission of an organization is and what they do, don’t forget to give to them during this time. And some people can’t. And, you know, I’m sure institutions understand that but important to support and to give. But you did bring out something that—because I posted this on Facebook about the CARES ACT and the fact that Christian institutions, nonprofits, even churches will be able to take some federal money or loans. And a lot of people pushing back saying “Man, you don’t want to take any money from the government.” Of course, Christian schools, I mean, you’ve been—your students have been taking federal funds for a long time. S,o there’s very few Christian schools that don’t take any federal funds. And I think, probably, Grove City and Hillsdale might be the only ones. But do you—does that make you nervous at all taking money from the government with that ACT?

DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  No, it doesn’t make us nervous at Judson University. But part of that is understanding, you know, at least for me, as a President. The way I lead, you know, Christ made it very clear or what Christ said, well, whose pictures on the coin? It’s Caesars. So render unto Caesar what Caesar’s and unto God, what’s God’s. And any time you deal with the state, whether it is with state sanctioned marriage, from a moral standpoint, whether it is taxes, whether it is monies that are distributed from the state, there’s always political conditions and human conditions and human requirements. And that’s just part of it. And you either agree to those rules or you don’t accept the money. And like you mentioned, there were two great examples of the institutions you shared, that have already made that decision. And so, if the conditions are too onerous for us, then you know, we understand that may not be an economic resource that we want to tap into. There are certain grants we don’t apply for. There are certain foundations that we don’t apply to just because of the conditions or from a Christ-centered perspective, we just don’t feel like that’s a good fit for Judson University. And taking money from the State of Illinois, or from the federal government, is much the same way. You have to be careful. You have to understand that there are conditions that come with that. And at least for Judson, if those conditions ever truly jeopardize our faith identity, that’s no longer worth the cost to us.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, we have time for just one last question. And it’s probably one of the most important. And that is—spiritually, how are you helping your students, your faculty, your staff really grow during this time? Because we know, whenever there’s hardship, this can be a time—maybe even more than normal life, right—where here we can really see it as an opportunity to grow spiritually, to come closer to the Lord. So, what are you doing and how are you seeing people being impacted, spiritually, by all this?

DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  Well, the important part of the spiritual piece of it is that you really understand if you had made the right investments leading up to this moment in crisis. That’s true with everything. You know how prepared you are, by how you’ve been living out your spiritual identity every day up and to this point. And so, with what we’ve done with chapel led by Chris Lash, and our provost. The way we invest in our students spiritually, the way that as a faculty and staff we invest with each other, with our prayer structure. The way our Board of Trustees prays for Judson. The fact that even simple things like every Sunday, we post on our social media ways that faculty and staff and alumni and friends and parents can pray for Judson University. How you live out your faith, day-to-day, should be strengthened through moments and times like this. Because when you’re in trauma or you’re in crisis, there’s no all of a sudden, trying to gorge and feed spiritually, really quick, just to get you up to speed. That doesn’t work out, generally, pretty well. But the second part is, then there’s a great opportunity to witness—to talk about if you’re sitting in a place of peace. Again, it’s hard, it’s challenging, God’s gonna get us through it. And people look at you and go, “Why do you have this confidence?” Then it opens up your mission field and saying, “Well, because that’s how we live every day. You know, we’re not promised anything tomorrow or promised this moment in time and how we invest that is incredibly important.” So that’s what we’ve been sharing with our students. So, chapel has switched to moving the content online and Chris Lash posts, on a daily basis, messages that our students can then tap into. We did suspend chapel credit. So, we moved all the students in that environment. We do give a chapel grade, but we move them to basically pass-fail so that we just encourage them to take advantage of those materials as well. Different prayer groups—making sure that we stay connected. Asking simple things like as a faculty member, or as an administrator, asking our students, how can I pray for you? Letting them know that our faith leads us and guides us at a time like this, too. So, because of the investments we made, we feel like switching and moving into a slightly different format. Just—it’s God’s just giving us a different way to share the message God wants us to share. And I think Julie, you see that exact same thing with the ministry that you do. The fact that we’re now doing this through zoom and your podcast continues on, all be it in a different format, maybe not in the studio. Even though Eric you know, sitting in a studio it looks like but we all have different ways of showing or casting that. The churches are the same way. The churches have done the same thing. They’ve moved to providing their church services in a digital format. And some do it on Facebook. Some play some on YouTube. Some still do local broadcasting as well. So, we’re no different than the church. If you’ve been investing in your flock, and you’ve been diligent on how you live out the faith day-to-day, you just feel confident God’s going to help you move into this new format. And spiritually, people should thrive in this environment because you’re experiencing how God helps us overcome challenge.

JULIE ROYS:  Well, I was somewhat amused by—I was listening to Chris Lash and he was he’s talking about St. Benedict. And I thought, well, that’s good to talk about the monks because we’re all living kind of a monastic life right now. Right? We’re sort of in our abbey so to speak. But I think Christians, throughout time, have dealt with very difficult situations. Isolation sometimes can be a good thing—solitude with the Lord. But at the same time, I think you’re right that this is an opportunity to connect. And some of us are connecting through online platforms or texts or whatever with people that normally we just see and it’d be casual. And now we’re engaging in more substantive conversations with them because of the crisis. So, it is an opportunity. And I just appreciate, Gene, what you’re doing—the way you’re providing leadership, both in an academic way, but also in a spiritual way there at Judson. And I do appreciate you so much taking the time. So, thank you. Appreciate you.

DR. GENE C. CRUME, JR.:  Absolutely. Thank you, Julie for the opportunity, and thanks for your ministry. 

JULIE ROYS:  You bet. Well, again, joining me today was Dr. Gene Crume, President of Judson University in Elgin, Illinois. I’m Julie Roys. And if you’d like to find me online, just go to JulieRoys.com. Hope you have a great day. Stay safe and healthy and God bless.

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